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Ron Radosh

Each day, the apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood continue to carry on their propaganda campaign, meant to gain acceptance for the group’s participation in the new democratic Egypt. The most outrageous example comes from the International Herald Tribune, the English language daily of the New York Times in Europe. It is an op-ed from none other than the would-be moderate Muslim, Tariq Ramadan, who writes that “not only is Islamism a mosaic of widely differing trends and factions, but its many different facets have emerged over time and in response to historical shifts.”

The different facet, as you expected, is the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by his grandfather, Hassan al-Banna. Ramadan continues:

The Muslim Brothers began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II. The writings from between 1930 and 1945 of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, show that he opposed colonialism and strongly criticized the fascist governments in Germany and Italy. He rejected use of violence in Egypt, even though he considered it legitimate in Palestine, in resistance to the Zionist Stern and Irgun terror gangs. He believed that the British parliamentary model represented the kind closest to Islamic principles.

Al-Banna’s objective was to found an “Islamic state” based on gradual reform, beginning with popular education and broad-based social programs. He was assassinated in 1949 by the Egyptian government on the orders of the British occupiers.

We know, thanks largely to the writer Paul Berman, that Ramadan’s reputation as an insightful moderate is itself a falsehood. In a much discussed 2007 essay in TNR, and later in his important book The Flight of the Intellectuals, Berman notes that the writer Paul Landau describes “al-Banna, in his position as chief guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a figure comparable to Il Duce and the Führer. Landau attributes a lot of importance to al-Banna’s friendship with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem—who, as Hitler’s ally, helped organize a Muslim division of the Waffen-SS and then, after the war, when he was wanted for war crimes (owing to his SS division), succeeded in escaping to Egypt, thanks to help from al-Banna himself.” Berman writes that al-Banna had the following goals:

the creation of a properly Muslim individual person, in thought and belief; of a properly Muslim family; of a properly Muslim people or community; of an Islamic state; and, finally, the resurrection of the ancient Islamic Empire—which al-Banna describes by referring admiringly to what he calls the “German Reich” and to Mussolini’s dream of a resurrected Roman Empire, though naturally al-Banna regards his own resurrected Islamic Empire as vastly preferable and theologically more legitimate than anything Mussolini could have contemplated.

To put it simply, al-Banna had a fascist program in mind, and his conception of the Brotherhood was anything but non-violent, or a parliamentary Western model of government, or legalist. Two Iranian scholars he quotes, Ladan and Royan Boroumand, also point out that “[f]rom the Fascists—and behind them, from the European tradition of putatively ‘transformative’ or ‘purifying’ revolutionary violence that began with the Jacobins—Banna also borrowed the idea of heroic death as a political art form.”

There is much more to learn, which you can do by buying Berman’s book or reading his article. Leave it to the editors of the IHT to run Ramadan’s article, from which readers will gain a false impression about the origins of the Brotherhood, and which, without the antidote of someone like Paul Berman to inform them about the truth, they will accept as proof of the reasonable program of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One other point about Ramadan’s disingenuous article. He refers to al-Banna’s claim that his grandfather favored “legitimate” opposition to the extremist Irgun and Stern gangs in pre-1948 Jewish Palestine, against which he said violence could be used. Those who know anything about the two Jewish terrorist groups know that the mainstream Zionists opposed them as counter-productive and even called them fascist, and that the leader of the Yishuv and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, ordered the Haganah to stop them by force. What al-Banna favored was violence against the entire Jewish community in Palestine, and its just effort to create a Jewish state and to oppose the British control of the Mandate.

Anyone who takes Ramadan’s assurances that today’s Brotherhood is modern, favors “the Turkish example” of Islam (he does not talk about what happened in Turkey with that model in the very recent past), and wishes only to participate in the democratic transition is accepting assurances from a very tainted and unreliable source. Moreover, even Ramadan lets the cat out of the bag when he writes that “the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership has signaled that now is not the time to expose itself by making political demands that might frighten the West, not to mention the Egyptian people. Caution is the watchword.”

Translated, you can get the gist of what the Brotherhood’s leaders really want; i.e., to proclaim their true agenda when the time is ripe, when they can advance to the Islamic state and take the secular Egyptian populace along for the ride, and when they no longer have to worry about frightening the West. It is the tactic of the stealth jihad, of which Ramadan himself is a good example of one of its top practitioners.

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